Once the Stanley Cup Final concluded, the flurry of rumours, stories and possibilities started flying left, right and center. While some of these may come to fruition, many of them will fall by the wayside. It’s easy to get lost in the excitement of the NHL free agency period, with myself included. Whether it’s free-agent signings, offseason trades or the 2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And for the Vancouver Canucks, why not take a look within the organization and see who could potentially fill out a roster spot at a cheap price tag.
That’s not to say there won’t be players added through trades or free agency. We’ve just seen in the past that sometimes that option doesn’t necessarily work out the way some teams would hope, and for general manager Jim Benning, he has a few options already on the roster heading into next season. Whether it’s a rookie poised to take a big step in year two, a forward in the process of cracking the roster full-time, or a defenseman looking to take advantage of an opportunity presented, Vancouver could have a few pieces already available to them.
One of the bright young prospects brought in briefly towards the end of last season was defenseman Jack Rathbone. The 22-year-old rearguard made his debut this past season with the Canucks, finishing with a goal and two assists in eight games. While these numbers, along with his Corsi-for percentage (CF%) of 47.0, don’t jump off the page, he’s shown flashes of potential within the system.
When playing in the AHL for the Utica Comets this past season, Rathbone compiled nine points in eight games, while back in 2019 at Harvard University, he finished with 31 points in 28 games. There have been a number of players (defenseman specifically) who have transitioned their collegiate success towards the NHL, including Duncan Keith (University of Michigan), Ryan Suter (University of Wisconsin) and most recently, Cale Makar (University of Massachusetts). While I’m not calling Rathbone the next Makar, being given a chance to showcase his talents next season might allow us to see how high his ceiling truly is.
Nils Hoglander was one of the few bright spots for the Canucks this past season. The 2019 second-round pick (40th overall) finished with 27 points in 56 games, playing 15:27 of time on ice (TOI) per night. At just 20 years of age, he also owned solid 50.3 CF%. Hoglander’s play really blossomed down the stretch of the regular season, where he finished with eight points over his final 13 games.
Even with the acquisition of Jason Dickinson from the Dallas Stars in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick (No. 73 overall), it’s safe to say Hoglander will continue to play a significant role and possibly an even bigger one next year.
The final name on this list is one the Seattle Kraken could potentially select in the expansion draft, and that’s Kole Lind. The hope for the Canucks and their fanbase is that he isn’t because there is a lot of upside in the 22-year-old Saskatchewan native. While he failed to register a point in seven games with Vancouver this past season, his AHL numbers suggest he could earn a role to begin 2021-22 with Vancouver.
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Between the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, Lind saw his point totals jump from 17 to 44, and he averaged a point-per-game (PPG) this past season with Utica. At 6-foot-1 and roughly 180 pounds, the former second-round pick from 2017 (No. 33 overall) might just be ready for a shot at a full-time job in the NHL.
We’ve already seen the trade for Dickinson, and following the expansion draft, as well as the 2021 NHL Draft, there will be moves made by the Canucks during the free agency period. While we can expect all that and more, let’s not look past the fact that there are some promising young pieces within the organization. And if given a chance, they might just be exactly what Vancouver needs heading into the 2021-22 season.
I’m a London, Ontario based broadcaster and sports writer for the Vancouver Canucks. I’ve done work in the past reporting on the NHL, NBA and MLB. I’ve also covered the OHL including the Owen Sound Attack and am currently involved with the London Knights.